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What Eagle Changes Bring

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What Eagle Changes Bring

USA Head Coach Mike Tolkin has mdd a few changes for Saturday's game against Japan, moving former USA U20 captain Scott LaValla (Budd Bay/Trinity) from flanker to lock, where he joins Samu Manoa (SFGG), now with the team after some family time.

The move leaves a place open in the back row, where hard-nosed flanker Danny Barrett (Sacred Heart/Cal) slots in, joining Todd Clever (College Park/Nevada) and Cam Dolan (Naples/Life). Up front, where the Eagles had a few problems against Scotland in the scrum, Ollie Kilifi (Seattle Vikings) moves to tight head and Nick Wallace (Chuckanut/St. Mary's) comes in at loosehead.

The backs are unchanged except that with Andrew Suniula's unfortunate injury, Folau Niua comes in at the midfield.

So what do the changes mean? Up front it's about the scrum. The USA wasn't that bad against Scotland and certainly the referee went to a penalty try scenario very quickly, but they still need to get out of that horrific situation of defending scrum after scrum in front of their line. That's what lost them the game against Japan in 2013, and it remains a problem.

"Yeah it's possible that a referee comes in with a preconceived notion of how a team scrums," said Tolkin. "But for us, if we hold them up one time we're out of it. So we can do something about it."

Manoa's presence in the second row will help, and LaValla, while usually a flanker, can push, too.

Tolkin also needs to address some defensive breakdowns that led to Scottish tries last week. He and his staff ave done that this week.

"We had some let-downs and Japan will be difficult, dynamic, if we let them," Tolkin said. "We have been making sure our positioning is right and that we're aggressive."

Offensively, the USA was held try less in the 24-6 loss to Scotland. They need to score tries against a quick-strike Japan team that stormed back from a 25-9 deficit to beat Canada 34-25.

"We need to be more efficient," said Tolkin. "Our numbers were better than Scotland's on attack in a lot of areas. But we are looking at having our nine and ten take more control of the game, and if we're more efficient we can take advantage of those scoring opportunities."

For the Eagles, it seems they get more hesitant when they get close to scoring, as if the doubt and fear of making a mistake slows them down. When they have taken the risk, and been aggressive, they have scored tries.

The inclusion of Manoa and Barrett helps that, because both are players who like to take the fight to the other guy.